Polynomial continuation in the design of deployable structures
Polynomial continuation, a branch of numerical continuation, has been applied to several primary problems in kinematic geometry. The objective of the research presented in this document was to explore the possible extensions of the application of polynomial continuation, especially in the field of deployable structure design. The power of polynomial continuation as a design tool lies in its ability to find all solutions of a system of polynomial equations (even positive dimensional solution sets). A linkage design problem posed in polynomial form can be made to yield every possible feasible outcome, many of which may never otherwise have been found. Methods of polynomial continuation based design are illustrated here by way of various examples. In particular, the types of deployable structures which form planar rings, or frames, in their deployed configurations are used as design cases. Polynomial continuation is shown to be a powerful component of an equation-based design process. A polyhedral homotopy method, particularly suited to solving problems in kinematics, was synthesised from several researchers’ published continuation techniques, and augmented with modern, freely available mathematical computing algorithms. Special adaptations were made in the areas of level-k subface identification, lifting value balancing, and path-following. Techniques of forming closure/compatibility equations by direct use of symmetry, or by use of transfer matrices to enforce loop closure, were developed as appropriate for each example. The geometry of a plane symmetric (rectangular) 6R foldable frame was examined and classified in terms of Denavit-Hartenberg Parameters. Its design parameters were then grouped into feasible and non-feasible regions, before continuation was used as a design tool; generating the design parameters required to build a foldable frame which meets certain configurational specifications. iv Two further deployable ring/frame classes were then used as design cases: (a) rings which form (planar) regular polygons when deployed, and (b) rings which are doubly plane symmetric and planar when deployed. The governing equations used in the continuation design process are based on symmetry compatibility and transfer matrices respectively. Finally, the 6, 7 and 8-link versions of N-loops were subjected to a witness set analysis, illustrating the way in which continuation can reveal the nature of the mobility of an unknown linkage. Key features of the results are that polynomial continuation was able to provide complete sets of feasible options to a number of practical design problems, and also to reveal the nature of the mobility of a real overconstrained linkage.